Airtel Africa has confirmed reports published last month that its Kenyan subsidiary has agreed settlements with the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) regarding its operating and spectrum licences. The firm also said that Airtel Kenya has received approval for the replacement of its temporary concession with a ten-year frequency licence comprising 2×10MHz of spectrum in the 2100MHz band. Airtel agreed to pay USD10 million for the licence, which will be valid until 2032. In respect of settlements regarding its 2015-2025 operating and spectrum licence, Airtel will pay a total of USD20 million in four instalments over the next three years.
As previously reported by CommsUpdate, last month Airtel Kenya reached an out of court settlement with the CA related to a long-running dispute about its operating licence. The concession was originally held by Essar Telecom Kenya (yu), which was partly acquired by Airtel at the end of 2014. The latter’s original 15-year operating concession expired on 27 January 2015, since when it has been operating under the licence of Essar which was issued on 1 July 2007 and will expire in January 2025. According to Airtel Kenya, at the time of acquiring Essar’s assets, the CA had agreed to merge the two cellcos’ operating licences, but once the deal was finalised the regulator insisted that Airtel pay KES2.15 billion (USD18.6 million) to renew its permit, arguing that Essar’s concession was non-transferrable. The settlement will now also enable Airtel to seek an exemption from a rule that requires telecoms companies to sell at least a 30% stake to local shareholders by March 2024.